If the Arizona Cardinals elect to pursue a quarterback of the future this offseason, that quarterback will have a new coach to learn from.
On Friday, the Cardinals formally announced the hire of former NFL quarterback Byron Leftwich as the team's quarterbacks coach. Leftwich served as an intern with the team during the 2016 season. Leftwich takes over for assistant coach Freddie Kitchens, who will become the Cardinals' running backs coach. Former running backs coach Stump Mitchell is no longer on head coach Bruce Arians' staff.
Leftwich played 10 NFL seasons with four different teams, spending the first four seasons of his career in Jacksonville before playing for Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. A former first round NFL draft choice out of Marshall, Leftwich started 50 career games and threw 58 touchdowns and 42 interceptions during his career.
Leftwich takes over as the Cardinals' quarterbacks coach as 14-year veteran Carson Palmer continues into the final stages of his career. Palmer has not yet told the Cardinals whether he will be back next season, but he's under contract in 2017. Veteran Drew Stanton is Palmer's backup, and former Miami Dolphins' quarterback Zac Dysert served as the team's third-string option, spending most of the 2016 season on Arizona's practice squad.
Kitchens will move over to coach running backs after spending the last four seasons as the Cardinals' quarterbacks' coach. Kitchens has been with the organization since 2007, and devoted the first six seasons of his time with Arizona to coaching tight ends. Kitchens has worked closely with Palmer and helped him become the first quarterback in franchise history to throw for over 4,000 yards in multiple seasons.
The Cardinals have just two running backs under contract for 2017, David Johnson and Kerwynn Williams. Johnson was one of the league's most prolific players in 2016, racking up over 2,000 yards of total offense and accumulating more than 100 yards from scrimmage in each of the team's first 15 games, an NFL record.
Kitchens replaces Mitchell, who has worked in Arizona under head coach Bruce Arians for the past four seasons. Prior to Mitchell's arrival in Arizona, he spent more than a decade coaching running backs in the NFL, first with the Seattle Seahawks and then with the Washington Redskins.